"Growing up in Chicago, you’re forced to grow up quick, because of the environment, what’s going on in Chicago in certain areas… it’s violence, it’s real stuff going on, and if you want to achieve, you have to be able to see that… and understand that it’s real out here." - Spenzo
I first heard of Spenzo last fall through a unique guerrilla marketing campaign that saw hundreds of stickers and the occasional poster plastered on streetlight and traffic light posts across the South Side, posing the question “Ain’t U Spenzo?” Since then, his profile has risen exponentially. This summer’s mixtape In Spenzo We Trust cements his position as one of the Chicago rap scene’s most promising young musicians.
While he lacks the lyrical sophistication of critically acclaimed South Side contemporaries Tree and Chance The Rapper, who also released sophomore records earlier this summer, Spenzo compensates with the delivery of a much more seasoned rapper. Like his 2012 debut Ain’t You Spenzo, his latest mixtape is a diverse, if not particularly focused, set of tracks that packs the same energetic punch as Chief Keef’s drill music while rising above the violent themes that birthed the epithet “Chiraq.” In album opener “Englewood,” one of the more introspective moments of the mixtape, Spenzo calls out rappers preoccupied with the violence of the dope game, spitting, “You so busy up here trying to be a hood n***a, forgot the objective is to get out the hood, n***a.”
And Spenzo has indeed done well for himself. Most of the songs on Trust are centered on his recent rise to fame and wealth, which is understandable for the eager 17-year-old who just wants to “live for the moment.”
Supported by a roster of up-and-coming producers, including present or former Chief Keef associates Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, and Young Chop, Trust should yield hits to rival Spenzo’s popular YouTube freestyles “Understand Me" and "Go In”. Highlights include “Different Now,” which features Rockie Fresh, the only guest rapper on the mixtape and a fellow star in Chicago rap’s newest generation. Proud but not boastful “Shake Me Down,” featuring a sped-up sample of Cage the Elephant that fits Spenzo’s cadence like a glove, may well be the best track on the record. Contemplative “Heaven Can Wait" provides a poignant reflection on the violence that saw 47 shootings and at least 11 fatalities across Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, the same violence that plagued his childhood in the Englewood neighborhood.
Spenzo’s hard work and ambition are already beginning to pay off. His latest appearance was on a track by L.E.P. Bogus Boys, featured alongside long-established heavy hitters Young Jeezy, T.I., and Ma$e.
Not every track on In Spenzo We Trust is as imaginative or original as the high points. He too frequently resorts to repetitive choruses (see: “Swiper,” “At The Moment”), and his lyrical themes are often similarly repetitive, but his energy and effort level have deservedly earned him recognition as a potential star in the making. I’m already looking forward to his next mixtape, but we’ll certainly hear from him before then. It won’t be long before no one has to ask the question “Ain’t U Spenzo?” anymore - they’ll know.
Listen to In Spenzo We Trust here.
Author: Dylan West